A number of towns passed resolutions urging the state to simplify the permitting process for small hydro-power operations. Among those towns was Putney, where resident Steve Bachler sees a lot of small hydro potential.
(Bachler) "When I came to Putney – I’m a historical buff anyway, and I was amazed by the history of all the mills here in town. And as I was walking down Sacketts Brook here in Putney I said, Whoa, look at all that water coming down.’ Of course, I realize it was used to power, I think ten different mills along Sacketts Brook here in Putney back in the late 1700s and early 1800s."
(Host) Bachler and others around the state would like to re-harness some of that power. But they say permitting for even a very small hydro project costs as much as half a million dollars.
The Vermont Small Hydro Association has been pushing for legislation that would streamline the process for so-called micro hydro facilities.
Representative David Deen chairs the House Fish and Wildlife Committee where the bill started out. He says he’s seeking advice from the Agency of Natural Resources, the Vermont Public Service board and the Environmental Protection Agency.
He says his committee will consider the issue next year, after the agencies have their input. But Deen, who is also a Connecticut River steward, warned that even small hydro projects are labor intensive.
(Deen) "And believe me, dams are expensive to maintain safely. And the supposed economic benefit from low flow micro hydro – they have yet to convince me that that’s going to generate enough income to maintain the dam let alone the entire generating facility."
(Host) Bachler says new run-of-the-river’ hydro technology can harness the water’s power without dams.